Costumes and Community
The approaching Christmas season has thus far been less stressful than in years past, but things are starting to ramp up. I am playing for the Lutheran church's midweek Advent services on the next three Wednesday nights. Fortunately, they tend to keep these services simple and the order of service and the hymns are the same for all three nights. I just have to prepare different prelude and postlude music for each service. I'll likely just use what I've prepared for Sunday services at our church. I was a bit worried that they had written me off as their backup pianist because I was unavailable last spring. I was supposed to play for their midweek Lenten services but I got the flu the week of Ash Wednesday and then ended up in the ICU on a ventilator and that left them scrambling for a pianist to replace me. I was well enough by Good Friday to play for that service, though. They were very gracious about the whole situation and the congregation sent me a huge fruit basket when I got home from the hospital.
I have been part of the Advent planning team at our church. As the pianist, I am usually part of the planning anyway so that I'll know what's happening in each service, but this time, my friend Elaine and I have been working on some surprises for each of the services throughout the Advent and Christmas season. We got together a few weeks ago to brainstorm. My part involves some creative writing and that has been fun. We're also in need of a few costumes. Our church used to put on fairly elaborate Easter and Christmas pageants every year (complete with a real donkey for Christmas), but it's been years since that's happened. My plan was to get out the collection of costumes we used for the pageants, sort through them, and wash and mend whatever needed washing and mending. They are stored in the church basement, though, in an area we all refer to as "the dungeon" for the obvious reason that it's exactly what you would imagine a dungeon to look like. I have been less than excited about venturing in there. (I suspect there are mice and I have had quite enough of mice at my own house.) I decided that the path of lesser resistance involved making up some new costumes and starting a new collection in a plastic storage bin that could be kept somewhere more accessible. I have the time right now and it's sewing. Simplicity also has these great patterns available, like this one for Christmas:
And this one for Easter:
So we'll see how this pans out. It might be one of those brilliant ideas of mine that blows up in my face but hopefully not.
When people ask where I live, I tell them "Kalispell, Montana." That is followed by the inevitable question, "Where is that?" I usually respond with "About 25 miles from Glacier National Park." In truth, though, where I live is a little community called Mountain Brook, east of Kalispell proper. Mountain Brook is what I think of as my home. The bulk of Mountain Brook lies along Foothill Road, which runs north to south along the foothills of the Swan Range (the mountains that I see when I look out my windows). The community has been here since the early 1900s, back when people settled here to log the vast forests and a "trip to town" was a huge undertaking as the only way to get across the river was by ferry. The women of that time formed the Mountain Brook Ladies Club—a group that is still in existence today. I belonged to Ladies Club when I first moved here. Ladies Club was responsible for a much of the entertainment that happened in Mountain Brook over the years, especially during the long, cold winter months. I remember hearing stories of elaborate plays complete with costumes cobbled together from fabric stashes and old clothes, sledding parties, pinochle parties (those lasted well into the 1990s) and other social events. Ladies Club still gets together every Thursday to quilt. They provide scholarships each year to graduating high school students from the community (both my girls were beneficiaries of this generosity).
The Mountain Brook community had its own school district. In 1927, one of the residents donated a piece of land on which a school was built by the community members. In the 1950s, a second structure was added as the gym and the library. The land was donated with the provision that if it ever stopped being used as a school, it would revert back to the family of the man who had donated it. I don't think anyone foresaw that those two buildings would be used as a school for the next 70+ years. The year before DD#1 entered kindergarten was the last time classes were held there. By that time, it had been annexed to the Cayuse Prairie school district. Cayuse is another five miles or so closer to town and is where both my kids were enrolled K-8.
When all the classes were moved from Mountain Brook to Cayuse, my friend Susan—my kids' other mother—came up with the brilliant plan to turn the school into a community gathering place. The family who had donated the land gave their permission and the non-profit Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation was formed. The Homestead Foundation created a free community library there and made computers with internet access available for familes who didn't yet have it in their own houses. The organization has been supported by donations/memberships and holds a twice-yearly pie social to raise money, some of which has been used to renovate the original schoolhouse. The Cayuse Prairie school district, however, and not the Homestead Foundation, is ultimately responsible for the property.
[Our friend Bill, whose memorial service we were attending when we were involved in the deck collapse in June 2017, had been responsible for coordinating much of the old schoolhouse renovation. Without his leadership, that project has ground to a halt.]
Sadly, it looks like Mountain Brook School's days as a community gathering place are numbered. Cayuse Prairie's insurance company has been putting pressure on them to remove the old playground equipment as they view it as a liability. The Cayuse school district has decided that it no longer wants to have responsibility for the campus. It's unclear which descendants of the man who originally donated the land are still alive and may be interested in claiming the property. A whole string of legal events have been triggered and if no one comes forth with a verifiable right to the property, the school district will attempt to sell it at current market value. I am not sure what that market value will be—it's a tiny and odd-shaped piece of property, mostly rock, with two old buildings on it. The Homestead Foundation is not in a position to purchase it, though. Things are in limbo and likely will be for a while.
Nothing lasts forever, but this is a piece of our community history and the thought of it disappearing makes me sad. There has been a lot of brainstorming of possible solutions, but in the end, it's going to come down to money—money that isn't available. If I were a gambling person, I'd think about buying lottery tickets